When the Detroit Observatory became a division of the Bentley Historical Library, many of the Observatory's administrative files and historical artifacts were transferred to the Bentley and are now part of the Bentley's Detroit Observatory records collection. The collection includes collected historical records and extensive documentation of the observatory restoration during the 1990s. Documentation includes information about the observatory's scientific instruments, former directors, and outreach and publicity. Formats include photographs, scientific log books of weather observations (1880-1890), architectural drawings, and publications.

Visual material includes photographs and negatives of restoration work and scientific instruments in the Detroit Observatory, collected historical photographs, lantern slides, films, and videotapes documenting the Detroit Observatory, astronomical subjects, people, facilities, equipment, instruments, and other observatories.

More information about the Detroit Observatory record group can be found in the collection's finding aid Researchers are invited to the Bentley to conduct more in-depth research on the Detroit Observatory.

The Bentley also has records on the observatories of the University of Michigan, including the Lamont-Hussey Observatory, the McMath-Hulbert Observatory, the Portage Lake Observatory, the Angell Hall Laboratory, the Detroit Observatory, and the Department of Astronomy. Early Detroit Observatory administrative materials, including inventories, budgets, personnel, and account books from approximately 1908 to 1948 can be found in this collection. Researchers can view a detailed listing of the contents of the Observatories collection in the online finding aid.


Many publications have been produced discussing the significance of the Detroit Observatory to the development of the University of Michigan and astronomical research and practice in the United States. Below, one will find a sampling of some of these publications.

A Creation of His Own: Tappan's Detroit Observatory, by Patricia S. Whitesell

Dr. Whitesell's book on the early history of the Detroit Observatory was published by the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library in 1998. It is available for sale at the Observatory, through the University of Michigan Press, at local bookstores, and from Internet booksellers. The book is also available (non-circulating) at the Bentley Historical Library.

"Nineteenth-Century Longitude Determinations in the Great Lakes Region: Government-University Collaborations"

By Patricia S. Whitesell. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 3 No. 2, Number 6, December 2000.

"Detroit Observatory: Nineteenth-Century Training Ground for Astronomers"

By Dr. Patricia S. Whitesell, Director and Curator, University of Michigan Detroit Observatory. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 6 No. 2, Number 12, December 2003.

Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

Articles on J. Martin Schaeberle, Henry Fitz, George C. Comstock, Karl Bruhns, Franz Friedrich Ernst Brünnow, William Ferrel, and Orren C. Mohler, Kluwer Academic Publishers.